The 2020 Deakin University survey of 2000 Principals found that 83% of them had experienced bullying, the threat of physical violence or actual violence in the last 12 months.
The source of the violence was clearly identified in the online survey, but 28% of school leaders acknowledged spending at least an extra two hours per day responding to emails.
The tendency in high performing schools is to acknowledge that the times have changed and that parents have the right to easy access to everyone in the school. Especially in Independent Schools, where the funding is determined by the parent community paying high fees – school leaders find themselves in a difficult position.
One easy and often used remedy is to shift the volume of complaints onto the desk of the teacher. The thinking is that if the teacher is having an issue with a child, the best person to deal with the parents is the teacher.
Why is this suggested?
Should parents have the cell phone numbers of the teachers? Should they have easy access to teachers’ emails? Should there be an open door policy – or are all of the above just another way of saying, “We have a doormat policy! Parents are welcome to enter and wipe their dirty feet on our competent and capable staff?”
There are a number of successful alternatives, but it requires strong leadership and the majority of parents to support it.
- No parent should have the private number of the teacher.
- If the school wants parents to have easy access to their Human Capital, teachers must be provided with school phones that are left at school and responses only made when the teacher has an allocated administrative time to respond to the calls.
- Emails should be addressed to a central postmaster. Many of the issues raised in the email can be addressed by the Postmaster (Parent Liaison Connector). If there are those which cannot can be quickly sorted out by the PLC, then the parent can make a scheduled appointment to meet with the teacher.
- Ensure that every teacher has allocated time for interviews and all interviews, either telephonically, online or face to face are recorded.
Teachers are in the student business. They are experts in building connections with students so that they can take their students on a learning
journey. That relationship is the priority. In the midst of the journey, the teacher is interrupted by a message on the phone or an email alert. Just the name of the caller is enough to produce gallons of adrenalin and cortisol in the brain and body of the teacher.
Instead of focusing on the lesson and engaging students in active learning – the teacher becomes pre-occupied with the message. Adrenalin contracts the blood vessels, directs blood supply away from the brain to the major muscle groups. This effect lasts up to an hour. If you teach 30 different children in a day and 20% of their parents are toxic, the reality is that teachers could be in a highly stressed, adrenalin-rich state for 6 hours a day – leaving little time for calm.
This is all new to the human brain that has not evolved to cope with this type of pressure. The result, a massive outflow of teachers from the profession who are being replaced by people who simply couldn’t care about the student or their toxic parents. Everyone becomes disadvantaged.
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